Eagle flew: But governor welcomes MicroAire's expansion

The eagle has flown, but the orthopedic instruments have landed– as the sprawling warehouse that served as the Charlottesville sorting facility for the U.S. Mail will soon be purchased by a high-tech firm called MicroAire Surgical Instruments with plans to create 51 new jobs.

"We've got to start making things again," said Governor Bob McDonnell, appearing at the close of an April 16 lunch celebrating the deal and awarding a $100,000 grant from Virginia taxpayers.

That gift to the company will be matched by Albemarle citizens, whose leaders (several of whom attended) are handing over $100,000 from the County's so-called Economic Opportunity Fund. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance tossed in another $51,000.

What taxpayers will get (besides a chance at above-average-paying jobs), said Albemarle Supervisor Ann Mallek, is that this formerly tax-exempt government building– assessed for $5.3 million– moves on to the County tax rolls.

Pulling the trigger on a blue bone saw (which he later revealed might cost up to $5,000), company president George Saiz said that MicroAire would soon shutter a California manufacturing plant to place the operation inside the soon-to-be-renovated former postal building.

As he and other speakers were extolling the impending move, high-intensity overhead lamps competed with the human voices to give the event– despite linen napkins and floral arrangements– the aura of a high school gymnasium. Unlike most gyms, however, this 73,000-square-foot structure currently includes a soaring catwalk that once gave eagle-eyed Postal managers the ability to ensure that nobody was swiping cash from grandma's birthday card.

Company communications official D.J. Crotteau says the catwalk and the noisy lights are coming out, and windows coming in. The company also plans to configure a "clean room" where hair-netted employees can assemble and package sterile devices under strict temperature and humidity controls.

Besides a need for research and development space, what's driving the move is the company's recently-acquired Endotine line of plastic surgery implants. These absorbable forehead, neck, brow, jowl, and face skin holders offer multiple contact points which the company claims provide a smoother appearance than traditional sutures.

Take that, Gwyneth!

MicroAire currently employs 132 people at its headquarters, which was the very first tenant in the nearby UVA Research Park. A company rep says the purchase price was about $6 million with another $2 million to be spent at the new site.

"It's a very exciting time," said company president George Saiz. "We've seen a lot of growth."

The U.S. Postal Service purchased the property in 1997 and built the warehouse a year later. The building held 104 full-time career Postal workers, according to Postal Service Communications Coordinator Cathy Boulé. But the Service announced last year that it could save $6.3 million annually by moving the operations to a larger facility in Sandston, an eastern suburb of Richmond. Boulé says the employees, the last of whom left at the end of May, retired or took new assignments in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.

While the building bears an address of 3590 Grand Forks Boulevard, it lies just off Airport Road, sandwiched between the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport and  the Hollymead Town Center. It has been empty for less than a year– not too shabby in the current commercial real estate climate.

Founded in California in 1977, MicroAire moved its headquarters to the Charlottesville area in 1995. It is owned by a private holding company called Colson Associates Inc., a company controlled, says the Microaire president, by Chicago-based billionaire Robert Pritzker and his children.

Story updated Monday, April 18 at 10:31am to show purchase price.


Based on the information provided above, it does not sound like it was necessary to put up 250K by the State and Albemarle county to attract this company to CHO since they are already here backed by a billionaire. 250K will take care of the poperty taxes for a while. Also, of interest and concern is the fact that this property was assessed for 9,089,700 on 1/1/11 only to be reassessed on 3/7/11 for 5,334,600. How can that be appropriate? Who commands the tax assessor to lower the property tax assessment on property for someone's business interest? I wonder who might have a stake in this company locally? This looks politically motivated. Ann Mallek did a nice job to maneuver in front of the camera seeking votes, but I hope the voters of her district have seen the light on her liberal tax and spend policy and money giveaways such as this.

I would imagine that the new assessment is based on reality, ie the purchase price of the building.

This investment is EXACTLY where the money should be going. 51 new jobs whose salaries are paid for with money that comes from OUTSIDE the area. It will all be NEW money that does not tax our exisiting infrastucture.

If these employees are hired locally they either come off the unemployment rolls or if they move from another job their old job opens up for a new person. If these employees come from california (or anywhere else) then we now have some movement in housing which involves realtors, appraisers, carpenters, plumbers, home inspectors, settlement attornies etc etc.

This is a no brainer and a worthwhile investment.

The owner of record at the "new" unusual re-assessment date in March after the normal assessment of 9+M in January is still the US postal service, therefore it is obvious that the re-assessment was part of the deal with the county and state for the transfer of the property. The assessor never goes out to re-assess property three months after the routine yearly January assessment unless there is a purpose to do so. Amazing that the property dropped in value by half after years of the 9M+ assessment. The new jobs are a good thing but the behind the scenes( ala Biscuit Run) political tactics with probable political favors owed at the taxpayers expense is not a good thing. This is a no brainer for those with no brain,

County Farmer- Expansion in the area is good- what would you have thought if Micro Aire closed their local facility, and fled to their California or New Jersey locations?

From the past- check out California Sidecars in Nelson County.